217 F.3d 93 (2nd Cir. 2000), 99-7793, State of Connecticut v Cahill

Docket Nº:Docket No. 99-7793
Citation:217 F.3d 93
Party Name:THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT, on the relation of Richard Blumenthal in his capacity as Attorney General of the State of Connecticut, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. JOHN P. CAHILL, as New York State Commissioner of Environmental Conservation and DONALD W. BREWER, as Director of the Division of Law Enforcement at the New York State Department of Environmental P
Case Date:July 07, 2000
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 93

217 F.3d 93 (2nd Cir. 2000)

THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT, on the relation of Richard Blumenthal in his capacity as Attorney General of the State of Connecticut, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

JOHN P. CAHILL, as New York State Commissioner of Environmental Conservation and DONALD W. BREWER, as Director of the Division of Law Enforcement at the New York State Department of Environmental Protection, Defendants-Appellees.

FISHERS ISLAND LOBSTERMEN'S ASSOCIATION, INC. and FISHERS ISLAND CONSERVANCY, INC., Amici Curiae,

VIVIAN I. VOLOVAR, Movant.

Docket No. 99-7793

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

July 7, 2000

Argued: January 11, 2000

Appeal from the June 3, 1999, judgment of the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York (Frederick J. Scullin, Jr., Judge), dismissing a suit by Connecticut against officers of New York State on the ground that the suit is within the original and exclusive jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

Vacated and remanded.

Page 94

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 95

Mark P. Kindall, Asst. Atty. General, Hartford, Conn. (Richard Blumenthal, Conn. State Atty. General, Hartford, Conn., on the brief), for plaintiff-appellant.

Peter Lehner, Asst. Atty. General, New York, N.Y. (Eliot Spitzer, N.Y. State Atty. General, Edward Johnson, Deputy Solicitor General, Michael Belohlavek, Asst. Solicitor General, Gordon J. Johnson, Gregory J. Nolan, Asst. Attys. General, New York, N.Y., on the brief), for defendants-appellees.

Steven S. Michaels (Sarah R. Cebik, Debevoise & Plimpton, New York, N.Y., on the brief), for amici curiae Fishers Island Lobstermen's Assn., Inc. and Fishers Island Conservancy Inc.

Before: NEWMAN, WALKER, and SOTOMAYOR, Circuit Judges.

Judge Sotomayor dissents with a separate opinion.

JON O. NEWMAN, Circuit Judge.

This appeal presents an issue not previously litigated in this Court: whether a suit is within the jurisdiction of a federal district court or the United States Supreme Court. The precise issue is whether a suit brought by a State against officers of another State should be deemed to be against the other State itself, in which event it would lie within the Supreme Court's "original and exclusive jurisdiction of all controversies between two or more States." 28 U.S.C. § 1251(a) (1994).

The issue arises on an appeal by Plaintiff-Appellant State of Connecticut from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York (Frederick J. Scullin, Jr., Judge) dismissing, for lack of jurisdiction, Connecticut's

Page 96

suit for declaratory and injunctive relief against Defendants-Appellees John P. Cahill and Donald W. Brewer. The Defendants are officers of the State of New York charged with enforcing a law that allows resident New York commercial permit-holders to trap lobsters in a small but quite productive area near Fishers Island, New York, but forbids nonresident commercial permit-holders from lobstering in the area. Connecticut's complaint alleges that the Defendants are enforcing an unconstitutional New York statute. The District Court ruled that the suit is a "controvers[y] between two or more States" falling within the Supreme Court's original and exclusive jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1251(a). We disagree and therefore vacate the judgment and remand for further proceedings in the District Court.

Background

The relevant facts are undisputed. The State of New York's Environmental Conservation Law creates a two-tiered system for commercial lobstering. Lobstermen 1 domiciled in New York and in States--including Connecticut--that give reciprocal permits or licenses to those domiciled in New York may obtain New York commercial lobstering permits, but those not domiciled in New York may not take lobsters from a designated area of New York waters in Long Island Sound near Fishers Island. See N.Y. Envtl. Conserv. Law § 13-0329(1), (2)(a) (McKinney 1997 & Supp. 1999). The island lies between Block Island Sound and Long Island Sound near the eastern Connecticut coastline, but is part of the State of New York, and the restricted waters nearby are an exceptionally fertile lobster bed.

In November 1997, Gordon C. Colvin, the Director of Marine Resources for the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), sent a letter to the Fishers Island Lobstermen's Association informing them that the DEC was no longer enforcing the restriction because DEC concluded that the provision was probably unconstitutional. However, in February 1998, Appellee Donald W. Brewer, Director of DEC's Division of Law Enforcement, sent letters to several Connecticut permit holders informing them that New York "is enforcing this law and you are hereby advised to refrain from fishing these restricted waters." Since that time, officers under the Appellees' authority have ticketed and fined Connecticut lobstermen for taking lobsters from Fishers Island waters.

The State of Connecticut brought suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York on April 8, 1998. Connecticut, acting as parens patriae, sought a declaration that the New York restriction was facially unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause as discriminatory against non-New Yorkers, and sought an injunction forbidding the Appellees from enforcing the restriction. The Appellees initially filed counterclaims, but they later discontinued them. The parties filed motions for summary judgment, arguing both the merits of the constitutional issue and whether the District Court had subject matter jurisdiction over the action. In an unpublished decision, the District Court ruled that the State of New York was the sole real defendant-party in interest and dismissed the suit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the suit was a "controvers[y] between two or more States" within the Supreme Court's exclusive original jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1251(a). Judge Scullin also denied as moot a motion to intervene filed by Connecticut lobsterman Vivian T. Volovar. Volovar subsequently filed her own suit against the Appellees. See Volovar v. Cahill, No. 99-CV-718 (FJS/DRH) (N.D.N.Y. filed May 5, 1999).

Page 97

Discussion

The Constitution confers on the United States Supreme Court original jurisdiction to hear cases "in which a State shall be Party," as well as appellate jurisdiction over "Controversies between two or more States." U.S. Const. art. III, § 2, cl. 1-2. Congress has vested in the Supreme Court "original and exclusive jurisdiction of all controversies between two or more States," 28 U.S.C. § 1251(a) (emphasis added), thus declining to vest lower federal courts with original jurisdiction over such cases. In considering the criteria that identify a suit within the Supreme Court's exclusive jurisdiction, we will examine a State's role as plaintiff, a plaintiff-State's options concerning the identity of defendant-parties, and considerations that place a limited category of suits brought by a plaintiff-State within the Supreme Court's exclusive jurisdiction. We will then apply these criteria to the pending case.

I. States as Plaintiffs

The parties do not dispute that Connecticut has standing to bring this suit in its parens patriae capacity. However, a review of the interests that plaintiff-States have sought to protect in the federal courts will illuminate our discussion of whether this suit is a controversy between two States.

Plaintiff-States generally bring suit in the federal courts in one of three standing capacities: (1) proprietary suits in which the State sues much like a private party suffering a direct, tangible injury, see, e.g., South Dakota v. North Carolina, 192 U.S. 286, 312 (1904) (suit for payment of defaulted North Carolina bonds held by South Dakota); Texas v. New Mexico, 482 U.S. 124, 126 (1987) (enforcement of interstate compact); (2) sovereignty suits requesting adjudication of boundary disputes or water rights, see, e.g., Rhode Island v. Massachusetts, 37 U.S. (12 Pet.) 657, 726-27 (1838) (boundary dispute); or (3) parens patriae suits in which States litigate to protect "quasi-sovereign" interests. See Alfred L. Snapp & Son, Inc. v. Puerto Rico, 458 U.S. 592, 601-02 (1982). See generally Richard H. Fallon, Daniel J. Meltzer & David L. Shapiro, Hart and Wechsler's The Federal Courts and the Federal System 311-22 (4th ed. 1996) ("Hart and Wechsler").

Under the parens patriae doctrine, a State's "quasi-sovereign" interests "consist of a set of interests ... in the well-being of its populace" that are "sufficiently concrete to create an actual controversy between the State and the defendant." Alfred L. Snapp & Son, Inc., 458 U.S. at 602. The doctrine is not limited to suits between States, but also applies to suits in which the defendant is not a State. See, e.g., id. A State possesses a quasi-sovereign interest in the "health and well-being--both physical and economic--of its residents in general," as well as in "not being discriminatorily denied its rightful status within the federal system," id. at 607. See generally 1 Laurence H. Tribe, American Constitutional Law 453-56 (3d ed. 2000) (collecting cases brought in parens patriae capacity); Hart and Wechsler 316-22; 32 Am. Jur. 2d Federal Courts § 563 (1995 & Supp. 1999).

The Supreme Court has exercised original jurisdiction over suits brought by States acting as parens patriae against other States, sometimes adjudicating claims that a law of the defendant State violated the Commerce Clause. See, e.g., Maryland v. Louisiana, 451 U.S. 725, 737 (1981) (challenging Louisiana tax on the "first use" of previously untaxed natural gas coming into the State); Pennsylvania v. West Virginia, 262 U.S. 553, 591-92 (1923) (challenging West Virginia statute...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP